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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 14, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-life and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum announced Wednesday that he has formed an exploratory committee that will allow him to take the first few steps toward a run for U.S. president.

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Santorum, a hero among social conservatives, but who has not held public office since 2006, revealed his plans during the FOX News program, “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.” 

The creation of an exploratory committee allows Santorum to collect donations for a potential run without having to formally declare his candidacy yet.

Santorum told FOX News anchor Van Susteren that he has traveled to 25 states, has “gotten great feedback and a lot of encouragement,” and feels he has a “good, strong presence on ground.”

“And now really, the test for me is whether we can raise the money that’s necessary,” he said. The exploratory committee, he explained is a “testing-the-waters committee” that will allow him to see if he can raise funds needed for a serious run for president.

He told Van Susteren that he will bow out of contention for the GOP presidential nomination if the cash does not materialize.

The former U.S. Senator has been mulling a presidential run for well over a year and a half , and even asked prayers from supporters in September about making his decision. FOX News suspended Santorum’s contract as a contributor for 60 days in March to avoid conflict of interest problems as Santorum vocalized even more the possibility of a run for U.S. president.

Santorum exited politics in 2006 after losing to sitting U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. in 2006. Casey ran on his father’s pro-life reputation (the elder Casey was a pro-life Democrat governor shut out of the 1992 convention in order to prevent him speaking his pro-life views), and voters had soured on Republicans overall that year. There was limited speculation earlier in the year that Santorum would opt for a rematch with Casey rather than mount a presidential campaign.

Santorum’s committee slogan on his fundraising website is “Fighting to make America America again.”

While Santorum is looking to capitalize on the support of social and religious conservatives to establish a lead in early primary states of Iowa and South Carolina, he still has low enthusiasm among the GOP base as a whole. In most polls, Santorum has ranked around two percent.

However, none of the front-running GOP candidates seem to be capturing the base’s imagination at the moment. In fact, the polls indicate that billionaire investor and reality TV star Donald Trump, who says he now embraces social conservative views, is at the top of the pack. 

According to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, Trump ties with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee over other GOP presidential contenders, including former GOP governors Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty who have already announced presidential exploratory committees. Neither Trump nor Huckabee have declared an intention to run, although Trump is playing up the possibility in the media.

Trump told the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody that he became pro-life after a friend and his wife decided to keep a baby they were considering to abort. He said, “the baby is the apple of his eye. It’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to him,” and that was one of the reasons he said he calls himself pro-life.

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